Something for everyone: The online learning debate is way more convoluted than it needs to be

Increasing remote options would be the best use of existing infrastructure

Cup of coffee in front of a zoom meeting
Everyone learns differently. PHOTO: Chris Montgomery / Unsplash

By Meera Eragoda, Features Editor

We’ve all got a take on hybrid learning. Too few options for it. Too much to ask of instructors. Not worth what we pay in tuition. We’re also blowing the problem out of proportion. A fully dual system, offering fully digital and fully in-person versions of the same class, helps us tackle the best and worst aspects of each system. 

In a recent piece about hybrid learning, assistant professor of publishing Hannah McGregor told The Peak, “an ideal hybrid class would have two professors to engage the two groups [in-person and online] of students.” McGregor implemented hybrid learning in her publishing seminar classes and is an overall supporter of the accessibility hybrid learning provides. If hybrid instruction has already been likened to teaching two classes, then why don’t we just offer two classes? One remote and one in-person. This seems like an easier way for students and instructors to get the best of both worlds without stressing out one group for the benefit of the other. 

Accessibility and flexibility seem to be the primary reasons why people support hybrid: it’s a format that allows students to choose what format they’re most comfortable with. However, given the critiques from instructors and students alike that a hybrid system leads to instructors being overextended and being unable to give students their full attention, why are we insisting on hybrid being the new gold standard for learning?

Instead, why not consider easier alternatives such as just increasing the number of remote classes available? It would mean SFU would have to increase its teaching staff but their constant tuition increases and the surplus profit they gained during the pandemic should make this feasible. What’s the purpose of our tuition if it can’t go towards improving options for students?  

Remote options are generally lacking so it makes sense why people see hybrid learning as the best of both worlds. However, not only has the pandemic shown that remote learning can be done more creatively than before, but it also offers the flexibility and accessibility that students are fighting for. 

Additionally, the pandemic forcing all instructors to teach remotely means that some may have discovered they prefer it and others might have discovered they absolutely loathe it. Just like students can learn in the way that best suits them, adding more remote options should theoretically also allow instructors to teach in a style that best fits them.

The blended learning style SFU started offering in 2021 as a compromise to hybrid learning, reduces but does not eliminate the number of in-person sessions students have in a course. Blended learning alternates between remote and in-person classes on a “set schedule”. However, if a class is remote, all students are expected to attend remotely and if a class is in-person, all students are expected to attend in person. While this is a helpful option, it is an imperfect one for immunocompromised students who may prefer not to come in, even at a reduced rate. Increasing remote options, when the pandemic has ensured the infrastructure is available, is the most obvious solution.